Samsung exec: we didn’t copy Apple’s iPhone, we just had better marketing

Samsung Corporate HQ (image 001)

Apple is claiming in the latest patent trial on-going in a California court that Samsung ripped off its iPhone to become the top-smartphone maker in the world, while Samsung says it was just pure marketing genius that helped turn the smartphone tide over the years.

Todd Pendleton, the chief marketing officer for Samsung’s American division, became the first Samsung executive to take the stand on Monday in the latest patent spat. He explained that marketing Samsung’s phones as the “Next Big Thing” helped it beat Apple, HTC, and BlackBerry, who in 2011 all held a lead over the South Korean electronics giant.

“I think people knew Samsung for televisions,” Pendleton told the court, when reminiscing on 2011. “But in terms of smartphones, there was no recognition for what our product was or what it stood for.”

In 2011, Samsung saw how much it was being dominated by Apple, and changed the way it marketed itself as a result. At the time Samsung was pushing itself on carriers, and instead found that it needed to explain to customers that it wasn’t just a television company, and was now making smartphones to compete with Apple.

The New York Times, who was present at the trial on Monday, reports Pendleton said that with each new iPhone that goes on sale, Galaxy smartphone sales drop around the same time. This is why in an email with Dale Sohn, the former smartphone boss at Samsung, Sohn said: “There will be a tsunami when iPhone 5 is coming,” and that Samsung needed to find a way to fight it. Marketing was that way.

We’ve seen countless advertisements where Samsung mocks Apple, and claims superiority over design, features, and innovation. That’s what helped Samsung overtake Apple as the top smartphone manufacturer when it released the Galaxy S III. claims Pendleton – not stealing patents.

“No one’s accused your marketing or advertising program of infringing any patents,” Apple lawyer Bill Lee told Pendleton, according to Recode, suggesting Samsung ripped patents from Apple with its Galaxy line.

Who’s correct in their stance? It depends on who you ask.

Samsung designer Youngmi Kim, who has been on the team since 2004, said Samsung “absolutely” didn’t copy Apple, while on the stand Monday.

“If we were to work on the same thing as Apple, that would not give us any advantage in terms of differentiating our products, so that would not make any sense,” Kim said.

Apple has had several witnesses on the stand during the trial over the last few weeks, including Phil Schiller, the marketing boss at the Cupertino-based company. It was revealed in emails shown as evidence that Schiller was once worried about Samsung’s advertising, and what it could do to Apple’s position in the market.

“We have a lot of work to do to turn this around,” Schiller wrote in a January 2013 email to James Vincent at Media Arts Laboratories, a company that has served as Apple’s ad agency since 1997.

This is the second patent trial between Samsung and Apple to take place in the US, following a trial in August 2012 where Apple came out victorious, and Samsung was made to pay $1.049 billion in damages.